A multimodal transportation pecha kucha

Last night I attended, along with a couple dozen people scattered throughout the Byrd Theatre, my first pecha kucha on multimodal transportation in Richmond. More interesting than it sounds y’all!

Last night I attended, along with a couple dozen people scattered throughout the Byrd Theatre, my first pecha kucha. I know it sounds dirty, but really, it’s just the newest Japanese craze sweeping these western shores, next in a long line extending all the way back to the Famicon and Pikachu.

A pecha kucha is an informal presentation style where a group of speakers come prepared each with twenty slides that automatically advance every twenty seconds. So if the presenter falls behind, too bad: the presentation, like TIME ITSELF, marches ever forward. It’s a neat idea that favors idea density over presentation style (or longwinded speakers).

This particular PeKu (aka. what the abbrev addicted RVANews office will be calling Pecha Kuchas from now on) was hosted by Baker, the consulting team hired by the City to update/create the “Richmond Strategic Multimodal Transportation Plan.” The Mayor set up The Plan as a priority in his 2010 annual report on economic development (PDF) with the intent to “offer citizens and visitors multiple layers of dependable interconnected transportation modes and routes that provide public-accessible and self-reliant options not dependent on vehicle ownership.” The City has secured half a million dollars to develop this plan and hopes to have it complete by 2012 (assuming the world still exists).

Last night’s PeKu was the first step in soliciting public input on what we, the citizenry, would like to see in Richmond’s — hopefully — less car-dependent future. Anyone could signup to present and the list of thirteen presenters was diverse in their backgrounds. So, it’s kind of a bummer that the Byrd was mostly empty. But! The ideas shared were still interesting.

Most of the presentations focused on making Richmond more humane / livable to those of us not in a car. A bunch of people took (the same) slides right from Richmond’s Downtown Master Plan, encouraging the use of roundabouts, bicycle lanes, light rail, etc.

Some of the more interesting presentations:

  • Michael Gilbert with RideRichmond talked about educating some of Richmond’s grittier bike culture on the importance of helmets and bicycle safety. They also hosted a wildly popular Pizza Crawl a couple weeks ago with over seventy participants (can you spot a helmet in that photo?).
  • David Sharrar from City Parking, Inc — who owns several lots downtown — shared some of the new parking technology including dynamic parking prices. It was cool to see a guy employed by a company who owns parking lots advocate building less parking lots.
  • Clint Edwards from the GRTC said that all of the left and right turns a GRTC bus takes are codified in a City ordinance. They do not have the ability to change their routes without going through City Council.
  • Amy George talked about Ciclovia and her ongoing attempts to start one in Richmond. The idea is pretty cool: close down streets to vehicular traffic on a semi-regular basis (we’re looking at you Carytown).

Another topic covered by multiple presenters was regionalism and getting our regional neighbors involved in the discussion. Really, a lot of the more interesting transportation plans involve somehow getting me and my canvas bags out to Whole Foods without a car. How can the City accomplish this without help from Henrico? Unfortunately, as one audience member asked the Baker representative, “is there anyone from Henrico or Chesterfield in a role similar to yours in the room?” The answer: “Not to my knowledge.


Baker is hosting another public meeting on Tuesday May 17th at 5pm (augh so early!). The format will will be a plain old openhouse where Baker will present some “existing conditions analysis” alongside of some of the ideas gleaned from the pecha kucha. Hopefully there will be a couple more steps involving (more of) the community before the ideas are presented to the City.

Below are some of my livetweets from last night’s event, consume at your own risk.

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Ross Catrow

Founder and publisher of RVANews.

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